State security agents have arrested at least 47 people in Zimbabwe suspected to have participated in anti-government protests over the southern African nation’s worsening economic and political situation.
According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, police say all the people who were arrested Friday allegedly participated in protests, some of them linked to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa.
In a statement, the lawyers group said in Harare, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) first arrested seven students at Allan Wilson High School, who were detained at Harare Central Police Station for allegedly participating in an illegal demonstration which was held in the capital city early this month.
“But when the students’ lawyer Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) arrived at Harare Central Police Station, where law enforcement agents were taking finger prints from them, challenged the treatment of his clients as accused persons, ZRP officers then indicated that they were now treating them as state witnesses in a matter in which a yet to be identified person will be brought to court charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.”
The seven students were later released after the recording of the witness statements.
The lawyers group also said the ZRP also arrested 34 people including pro-democracy campaigner Makomborero Haruzivishe and “charged them with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.”
Police claimed that the 34 people, who were represented by Obey Shava, participated in a demonstration allegedly staged by some MDC Alliance party youths last Wednesday in Harare.
However, 32 of the people were released from police custody and only Haruzivishe and Allan Moyo were detained overnight. The two were expected to appear in court on Saturday.
In Mutoko in Mashonaland East province, ZRP also arrested seven women, including a six month-old baby, and charged them with “participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.”
In court, prosecutors alleged that the seven women, who were represented by Nontokozo Tachiona-Dube of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, staged a demonstration on last Thursday, where they handed over a petition at Mutoko District Council protesting against the country’s poor education standards.
The seven women were set free on $100 bail after Tachiona-Dube applied for their release and were remanded to Thursday, March 5, 2020.
Tachiona-Dube also secured freedom for four Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe officials, including secretary-general Robson Chere, who had been summoned to appear at Mutoko Police Station in connection with a public protest allegedly held last Thursday in Mutoko.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi was unreachable for comment as he was not responding to calls on his mobile phone.
ZRP officers advised the four people that they will be summoned to appear in court if they intend to proceed with prosecuting them for allegedly failing to notify police officers about the demonstration.